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2017 Toyota Camry Test Drive Review
The 2017 model year marks the last one for the current generation of the Toyota Camry. It arrived in the summer of 2011 for the 2012 model year and was updated for 2014. And right after the New Year, at the 2017 North American International Auto Show, an all-new 2018 Camry was unveiled. So why are we reviewing a car that's about to be put out to pasture?
For all its new looks, the 2018 Camry doesn’t promise a whole lot in the way of improvements (yet). And the current Camry has evolved through the years into a very competent sedan—one that gives the upscale Honda Accord a run for its money. If you're in the market for a family sedan this summer and looking at the long-lauded Accord and Camry, it really is a three-way decision between the Accord, the current Camry, and the soon-to-arrive 2018 Camry.
But is it worth for you to wait for the ’18 or act now? Read on, as we’ll help guide you through the decision process.
Look and Feel
The Camry looks rather pleasant as modern vehicles go. Many automakers have embraced aggressive styling, with harsh angles and chunky design cues, perhaps forgetting that they're building family sedans and not concept cars. The 2017 Camry has raked but smooth headlights that frame a grille that grows rather large below the bumper. Yet somehow, Toyota pulls it off.
But Toyota is apparently not immune to the temptation to make a family sedan look more exciting than it can ever really be, and the redesigned 2018 Camry has a very aggressive look. Not everyone will love it, and the early takes from critics have been divided. If you prefer the clean looks of the current model, we encourage you to check out our preview of the 2018 Camry and make the decision yourself.
Inside, simplicity is an art that demands respect. The Camry's biggest rival, the Honda Accord, features an interior that's visually fetching and has better fit and finish, but a maddening layout. Compare that to the Camry, and you can forgive Toyota’s family sedan for not having such tight fit and finish, as the layout for all its controls is perfectly logical, with large buttons spread around a touchscreen.
Trims for the Camry are LE, SE, XSE, and XLE. The LE ($23,070) comes standard with halogen headlights, daytime running lights, a reversing camera, remote keyless entry, 60-40-split rear bench, 6.1-inch touchscreen display, woodgrain-style interior trim, and power locks and windows. Moving up to the SE ($28,340) brings you a unique, sporty front-end look with a black mesh grille, 17-inch alloy graphite-look wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, chrome-tipped exhaust, and rear spoiler.
The XSE ($26,310) has the same sporty look as the SE, but adds 18-inch machined alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, and “Ultrasuede” front and rear seats. The Ultrasuede is a very nice touch and a welcome seating surface for an upmarket trim, as opposed to sticky-in-summer leather seating.
If you opt for the XSE (also $26,310), you'll get LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, a smart key system, push-button start, leather-trimmed heated front seats, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Our test car is an XSE with a small handful of options, including a power moonroof and the Convenience package. Costing $845, this package includes the smart key system for the doors and trunk, push-button start, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and an antitheft system.
The standard engine across the Camry lineup is a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder. It makes 178 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. If you opt for the XSE or XLE, the 4-cylinder still comes standard, but you can also opt for an available V6 engine. Displacing 3.5 liters, it makes 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque.
Power gets sent to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic with manual tap-shift mode. In the SE and XSE, you can row through the gears via the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Toyota promises more power and efficiency out of the 2018 model, though no specific numbers have been stated at the time of this review. We can expect a jump in fuel economy and perhaps a marginal bump in power for the engines.
As for our current XSE test model, acceleration with the inline four is adequate, but not impressive. A few times I was in a hurry, and the Camry could not have been bothered, but for general commuting, it’s fine. Acceleration with the optional V6 is undoubtedly strong, but if you want to go fast in a sedan, there are other options, like the surprisingly quick Honda Accord, though the V6 Accord’s steering is too light for it to be truly fun. If you really want a V6 sedan, the Dodge Charger comes standard with one, and its rear-wheel-drive (RWD) platform is plenty of fun.
With regard to handling, the XSE is no slouch. Its sport-tuned suspension is firm, but not harsh. Steering is responsive and precise, but not too heavy. The Camry is no sport sedan, but the XSE is more in-tune with the driver than your average, run-of-the-mill sedan. It has the feel of a Nissan Maxima (touted by Nissan for its driving dynamics) or the Ford Fusion (without the Fusion’s harsh ride).
Fuel economy is listed at 24 mpg city, 33 highway, 27 combined. I experienced an average of 26.4 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
Form and Function
As we previously mentioned, the Camry’s strong suit is its interior layout, and how a simple layout, combined with deep cubbies, makes for an incredibly helpful sedan for everyday driving. There will always be a place for your gear, sunglasses, cell phone, and so on. The compartment at the base of the center stack has a deep well, and this is where the USB port is conveniently located. Our test model had the available Qi wireless charging pad in the base of that compartment. It’s also backlit, which is a nice touch.
Unfortunately, the front seats are pretty uncomfortable. The cushion comfort is fine, but the seat movement is a little awkward, and it’s difficult to find an ideal seating position. This could be due to my 6-foot, 3-inch height, but it could also be inherent in the design.
Luckily, the rear seats are plenty comfortable and spacious, and the Camry offers good rear head- and legroom. Out back the Camry’s trunk provides 15.4 cubic feet of space, nearly the same as the Camry’s closest rival, the Honda Accord. For reference, the Nissan Altima has 15.4 cubic feet, and the Subaru Legacy has an even 15. The Ford Fusion has more space at 16 cubic feet. And the Hyundai Sonata tops this list at 16.3 cubic feet. Still the Camry’s trunk has plenty of space, and the size and shape of the trunk opening allows you to cram in large bags with ease.
The LE and SE come with a 6.1-inch touchscreen for the stereo and vehicle settings. They also come with a standard backup camera, USB connectivity, and Bluetooth hands-free calling with Siri EyesFree. The standard stereo is a 4-speaker unit that can stream music from your smartphone.
Moving up to the XSE and XLE, you'll get the larger 7-inch touchscreen, and this controls more than just the radio. It features the connected navigation app, voice recognition, and a complementary 3-month subscription to SiriusXM All Access, including all the satellite radio stations, as well as real-time traffic and weather updates. This system also comes with a 10-speaker JBL premium audio system.
Also available is the Entune AppSuite, which features a collection of apps optimized for road trips and taking care of business while you’re in the car and making the most of the ride. This suite includes apps like MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Yelp, Pandora, Slacker Radio, and more.
Unfortunately, you can’t get the Camry with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. That goes for the new 2018 as well as the current 2017. So if you were holding out, tough luck. iPhone users do get Siri EyesFree, and for the simplicity and ease-of-use of this touchscreen system, I can actually make peace with the absence of the latest systems.
The Camry comes standard with vehicle stability control, traction control, 10 airbags, the LATCH child-seat anchoring system, a reversing camera, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
As for high-tech safety gear, the Camry is available with dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. Rear cross-traffic is employed when you’re backing out of a parking space or driveway; the system detects approaching vehicles from either side and alerts you.
What the Camry does not have is a forward-collision avoidance and prevention system. The Camry does come with a Pre Collision System, which can reduce the speed of a car about to be involved in a crash, but this should not be confused with the touted collision-avoidance systems. For that kind of tech, you will have to wait for the 2018.
The 2017 Toyota Camry earns a 5-star overall crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, earns an overall crash score of Good from the IIHS, and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.
With a starting price of $23,070, the 2017 Toyota Camry is undercut by the Nissan Altima ($22,500), Honda Accord ($22,455), Subaru Legacy ($21,995), Hyundai Sonata ($21,600), Chevrolet Malibu ($21,680), Ford Fusion ($22,610), and Mazda6 ($21,945) on base price—but by only several hundred dollars in some cases.
Our XSE model with options came in at $29,958, and we found it to be an extremely comfortable and well-equipped car for under $30,000. A fully loaded XSE with the optional V6 and Technology Package comes in at $33,300. The price for cars like the Honda Accord and Ford Fusion can start to skyrocket once you start adding options.
Even in its base form the 2017 Toyota Camry comes well equipped, with plenty of standard features, outstanding safety scores, and Toyota’s well-earned reputation for reliability. Measured on its value, the Camry is hard to beat.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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